Traffic Etiquette in Vietnam
People warned us about the dangers of the traffic in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City); I’d like to offer an alternative view.
It’s soooo civilised. Yes it’s busy as hell and yes it’s extremely intimidating to those of a Western culture because of the seemingly lack of rules. But all of that is a misunderstanding; rules have been replaced by etiquette and once you start to understand the etiquette then it all starts to make sense.
If there was one phrase that would summarise then it would be “Anticipate and Accommodate”. There’s no real concept of right of way, traffic lights are for general guidance, bikes will come out of side junctions without looking, cars will drift across lanes and trucks will crawl through busy junctions without a care while everything flows around them. And that’s the key, they’re all moving at a steady pace with no sudden movements in the full expectation that you will work around them.
That’s the deal you see? Move in a predictable way and that’s your half of the exchange done. See someone else moving in front of you, then you can have confidence that they will continue to do so, just “anticipate and accommodate” and you’ve now completed the other half.
I’m not saying it’s easy, I’m just saying it’s simple. Gettit? Riding out into the maelstrom of a Saigon roundabout with everything moving in all directions takes a little balls, but if you stop as you approach then you will confuse everyone around you and cause a conflict; there are no gaps, there never will be, JUST GO! Go steadily and don’t make any sudden changes of direction and people will work around you, honestly 🙂
In two weeks of being here, we must have seen a gazillion two-wheeled vehicles and not one incident, not even a minor one, of road rage. Horns are constantly blaring, but it’s not aggression, it’s notification for awareness, normally when they’re about to overtake you.
I’ll take Saigon’s lawless etiquette over London’s aggression thank you.